High court rules against abortions at home

By Hannah Brenton

The high court has rejected a legal attempt to allow women having an early medical abortion to take some of their pills at home.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) challenged the current law where women take two sets of pills, 24 to 48 hours apart, returning to the doctor’s office for the second set.

The charity argued women should be able to take the second set of pills at home, or at another location of their choosing, to give them more control over when the abortion takes place. Women can experience cramping or bleeding on the way home from an appointment.

But the high court ruled the pills should still be administered by a doctor, although it gave the health secretary the ability to review the process in light of any medical advances.

The 1967 Abortion Act states that “treatment” must be given in a hospital or clinic. Campaigners’ legal case rested on the argument that “treatment” should refer only to prescription, not the administration of pills.

The Department of Health opposed the changes, which would have applied to England, Scotland and Wales.

Ann Furedi, BPAS chief executive, said the organisation would continue to press for a change in the law.

“It cannot be morally right to compel a woman to physically take tablets in a clinic and to subject her to the anxiety that symptoms will start on the journey back when her doctor knows it is safe and indeed preferable for her to take these at home,” she said.